The relation of the psychoanalitic theory to power and domination
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The relation of the psychoanalitic theory to power and domination The relation of the psychoanalitic theory to power and domination Document Transcript

  • The relation of the psychoanalytic theory to power and domination. Anita Małecka
  • Power is no longer an objectified property, the prerogative of the happy few; instead, it is a microphysics of the most detailed techniques of knowledge and control. Foucault The conception of power incorporated in the feminist definition of patriarchy is thatwomen constantly must fight for their rights and sometimes they struggle just to survivewithout the power and domination of men threatening them. Whether an individual womanwants to conquer patriarchy will come from her desire to be independent and defined outsidethe context of men. Even some forms of traditions, like women taking the name of theirhusbands and children always carrying the fathers last name I personally find it as a form ofmale domination over women. Nowadays, more and more women are choosing to keep theirmaiden names or hyphenate with their married name so they can retain their own identity,which I in person find as a very good sing of women’s rising awareness of their basic rights.However, whether or not this way of describing power best illuminates the character ofgender relations have received as a result of Foucault’s notion of power. He also frequentlyuses language that argues that power is omnipresent and that all of social life comes to be anetwork of power relations. But where the need of power, domination comes from? Where arethe roots? According to me it all started since the child is born, so its early development, bothparents cooperation and many others factors which I am going to explain later on influence it.In this paper I will try to show the connections between the psychoanalysis and power anddomination. Psychoanalysis theory origins Today psychoanalysis is very familiar to the wide public after it has been eitherrejected or indulged for a long time. Psychoanalysis spread everywhere but not only due tothe interest stimulated by its therapeutic methods. It could even be said that therapy wasshadowed by the virtues of the applied psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis applied in literature,sociology, anthropology and ethnology, religion and mythology, incited the interest of apublic that had no inclination towards the clinical realm. Psychoanalysis is a method and theory directed toward the investigation andunderstanding of how we develop and experience these unconscious fantasies and of how weconstruct and reconstruct our felt past in the present. Until we have another theory which cantell us about unconscious mental processes, relations of gender, conflicts, sexuality and self, 2
  • we had best take psychoanalysis for what it does include and can tell us rather then dismissingit out of hand. (Chodorow, 1990). According to Freud the gender inequality is deeply rooted in childhood, since the earlyyears children have been told that masculinity represents power, domination, leadershipwhereas femininity stands for sensitivity, weakness, emotions, submissiveness, obedience etc.Freud recognizes five stages of personal development which are highly influential not only forcorrect child development but what is more important, for turning unconscious wishes (oral oranal sex, etc) to the conscious ones in order to relieve pressure and anxiety.Both Freud and Lacan combine the origins of the ego in the mirror stage. At the beginning theego is the product of many identifications of the other images, especially with the mother’sone. Then, the ego is the effect of re-channelling of lustful impulses in the subject’s ownbody. Therefore, the body composes the point of connections of the social and individual, theaxis which separates the one from the other. Until about six months, the infant does not have aunified relation to its body. In Lacanian terms, the child’s body is defragmented anddisorganized. (Wright, 1992).The infant gradually becomes able to distinguish the self from the other, its body from thematernal body. Simultaneously, the sexual desires begin to appear and to distinguishthemselves according to the particular sites of the body (oral, anal, phallic, etc.) from whichthey emanate. Only now, the object is given an independent status of subject being able tolocate its body in time and space. The ego is not only the product that has been produced as asubject and object separation; it is a condition for the child’s relations to its own body. Theego is regarded not as an outline of the real body, but of an internalized autonomy. Certainparts of the body are more eroticized than others. This is partially because it poses one of thefunction of the biological privilege and partially as a result of the individual’s history. (Freud,1923).When male child starts to experience desire, he want to have sex with his mother, that is whythe boy perceives his father as a rival. “The child aggressively competes with the father bycarrying out the imaginary alienating identification with his body image. What is certain isthat the child soon realizes, by way of comparison, the utter inadequacy of his own real withcorrelate of the imaginary phallus: such association between the image and the organ isfacilitated by the fact that, meanwhile, the child’s own genital drives have began to manifestthemselves in infantile masturbation.” (Chiesa 2007, p. 69).The child subconsciously wants to kill his father but on the other hand he loves him. Theconflict arises. The hatred has to be juxtaposed with love. The child compares his body with 3
  • the mother’s body (lack of penis) and he comes to the conclusion that it is the father whocastrated the mother. His fear of being castrated prevents him from desiring the mother. Thisis the moment when the superego is born and the child finally seeks a girl different from hismother. The whole phenomenon is called the Oedipus complex. Women experience is morecomplicated, it is called the Electra complex. As neither she nor her mother poses a penis, thedaughter rejects the mother and finds her as a potential rival to father’s attention. Femaleconstantly lacks something, she desires something instead of penis- that is the origins ofinferiority complex, which can influences women’s whole life. This can also partially explainwhy we, women, are ashamed of nudity. Why do we feel embarrassed in intimate situation?Have you ever thought about it? And how does these complexes and stages of personaldevelopment reflect to power and domination? The partial explanation is given in the objectrelation theory. Object-relations perspective According to Chodorow object relations theory is originally a set of accounts aboutthe constitution of self in the context of primarily a theory of gender. This branch of feminismin some sense imposed a gendered object-relational account on gender and relations ofparenting and heterosexual intimacy. In ‘Reproduction of Motherhood’ she gave a first-classintroduction to the social object-relations theory by putting particular emphasis on theassumption that mother and a child form a common unit, from which the child has to emergewith a distinct sense of its separate existence. This phase is called ‘separation from themother’. (Chodorow, 1990).According to me, the very act of separation from the mother is very difficult but crucial onebecause it influences our whole life. Imagine the situation that when a man is blind we use hispersonal relationships to measure how well he has overcome his disability. If he has a job, ifhe is able to make a real friendship and importantly a happy marriage, we feel that he hastriumphed. On the other hand, lets compare the ‘disabled’ man with someone whose capacityof making relationships has been warped, can never cooperate efficiently with other peoplenor make a successful marriage, however physically healthy he may be. His emotions arepermanently destroyed, negatively transformed. As I see it, it is because the act of separationfrom his mother in early childhood can in certain circumstances be a cause of later on child’sinability in making friendships and/or relationships. Why is that? The relationship with themother forms the basis of all relationships with love objects. Ego development finds its roots, 4
  • its core in a child- mother or better mother-child relations. I believe there are some importantindicators which can have an impact on the post-separation life. First of all, the child’s age. Itis generally believed that the sooner, the better. I am in two minds about it, on the one hand, ifthe child has to cope with some minor problems since the early childhood he is more probableto become independent, individual and strong man in the future, but on the other hand, if theseparation is made too soon it can cause serious consequences. When the child is exposure tounknown environment while not being ready, he can later on (while growing up/ while beingadult) manifest negative feelings such as quarrelsomeness, need of domination, aggression inorder to recompensate his ‘difficult’ childhood. Still, one question remains, what is the bestage from separation from the mother? Every child is unique, different so there cannot be onerole imposed here.I personally find Chodorow book very helpful while writing this paper. Her analysis of theproblem of why women in nearly all societies, rather then men, are the primary caretakers ofchildren appeal to me. I am deeply convinced that exclusive single parenting influences boththe mother/father and the child negatively, this is why the child ought not to be separated fromany of the parents, especially I mean here fathers because they rarely spent time with theirkid. Why is that? Well, it is generally believed that fathers must be primarily masculine rolemodels for boys, and heterosexual objects for girls and because of this stereotype fathers evenavoid spending time with his son/daughter. In my view children should be dependent onpeople of both genders and establish sense of self only in relation to both. Only thanks to suchan approach the child has a chance to correctly develop in every sense (physically,psychologically, socially, cultural etc.).While talking about power and domination object relation theory seems to play a crucial rolehere as it is a theory of relationships between people in general and more specifically betweenthe mother and her child. One of the major assumption is that we are aimed at formingrelationships with others and that insufficiency in making successful early relationships leadsto later difficulties. Why is that? It is directly connected with the relation between the subjectand their both internal and external objects.(Klein, 1984). As an example Klein sees relationswith the breast and child feeding highly influential. During the nourishment process, when thebreast produces sufficient milk the child feels satisfied, gratified even cherished and loved.But ‘when the child is prematurely withdrawn or the breast does not provide sufficient food,the child is frustrated and the breast is hated and the recipient of hostile thoughts. The motherthus receives love or destructive attack depending on this’. ( Klein 1984, p. 89). 5
  • Power ,domination and aggression According to Foucault power is not conceived as a property or possession of thatdominant class, state, but as a strategy: the effects of domination associated with power arisenot from an appropriation of deployment by a subject but from tactics and techniques, andpower does not constitute an obligation or prohibition imposed upon the ‘powerless’.Foucault outline five methodological ‘precautions’ concerning the form, level, effect,direction and knowledge level of power.First, analysis is to address not legitimate forms of power but techniques which have becomeembodied in the local, regional institutions. Second, analysis should concern itself with theexercise or practice of power and not with questions of possession. Instead of concentratingattention on motivation or the interests of groups, classes, or individuals in the exercise ofdomination analysis is to be directed to the various complex processes through which subjectsare constituted as effects of objectifying powers. Third, power is not a commodity or apossession of an individual, group or class, rather it circulates through the social body. Fromthis point of view, individuals are not agents of power, they neither posses power nor havetheir potential alienated by it. The fourth methodological prescription is somehow implicit inthe first above. Conventionally analysis of power have proceeded from a macro-institutionallevel (for example the power of the state). In contrast, Foucault has argued that the powerhave proceeded from the micro- institutional level in order to reveal the particular historiesand tactics of power. The final methodological role concerns the relationships betweenknowledge and the power thus the exercise of power puts into circulation the apparatuses ofknowledge, that it creates sites for where knowledge is formed. (Smart, 2002) The definition of power attached to the feminist definition of patriarchy, is one inwhich ‘men possess power which they hold over women (and subordinate men and children)in a relative stable sex/gender system’.(Ramazanoglu and Holland 1993, p. 239).In power relations between both sexes one of the most important issue to analysis has beenthe male’s attempt to gain the control over women’s body. Simultaneously, the role ofdomination and aggression as a motivator of behavior has constituted a heated debates.Some of the psychoanalysts like Sullivan does not take into consideration the idea of inborndrives, he describes aggression as a need secondary to the frustration.It is the society that mostly structures our relationships which constitute the basics of ourdevelopmental processes from the early childhood. It also forms our notion of the world andgeneral attitude towards it. While taking our first steps in the world we are usually 6
  • accompanied by the parents of the same sex, which gives a frame for our development, Imean here emotional, cognitive and gender development. The child accomplishes his ultimatesafeness by identification with the father with synchronous rejection of the mother and hisguilt is transformed into aggression and fear. (Keller, 1982).Aggression has many ways of expression, many meanings, many sources and many reasons.In this paper the emphasis is put on the aggression as a form underlying the impulse towarddomination. The equivalent of domination is the consciousness of subordination in those whomust obey the role/will of another. We do not need to be worry about the domination ofphysical nature but rather the use of knowledge of physical nature as an instrument for thedomination of human nature. It is commonly known that aggression consists of blocking of anindividual’s significant drives, motives or needs. Aggressive act can be divided into twocategories: hostile aggression and instrumental aggression. If an actor’s major goal is to harm,or injure the victim (either physically or psychologically, or by destroying his work orproperty), his or her action qualify as a hostile aggression. By contrast, instrumentalaggression describes those situations in which one person hurts another as a means to someother end. Aggression is to no small extend a social judgment that we make about seeminglyinjurious or destructive behaviors that we observe or experience. Aggression is aimed athurting, frustrating or depriving someone as long as it is recognized that the basis for inferringwhether an actor has a harmful intend can vary drastically across perceivers, victims, contextsand situation, thereby ensuring that people will often disagree about what has happened andwhether it can be qualified as an aggression.Freud proposed that human are born with death instincts that seeks to end life and underlinesall act of violence and destruction. Presumably, energy derived from food is continuallyconverted into aggressive energy and these aggressive urges must be discharged periodicallyto prevent from building to dangerous levels. An interesting Freudian notion is that aggressiveurge are sometimes directed inward, resulting in some form of self-punishment, self-mutilation or even suicide. Presumably, instinctual tendency to aggress occurs whenever weare frustrated in our attempts at need satisfaction or face some other threat that hinders thefunctioning of the ego. The aggressive drives help the individual to satisfy basic needs andthus serve to promote life rather then self-destruction.The home climate can and very often does influence the child adjustment. A growing body ofevidence indicates that children often become extremely distressed when parents fight andthat continuing conflict at home increases the likelihood that the children will have hostile,aggressive interactions with siblings, peers. 7
  • Apart from home school is the second, or maybe even the primary place when childrenexperience or demonstrate aggression for the first time. When young, aggressive childrenenter school, they are likely not only to fail academically but also socially, and these two kindof failure can interact to accelerate the growth of aggressive behavior. There is substantialevidence that aggressive children are likely to be rejected by their peers. Although most of thestudies have been correlational, making it difficult to determine whether aggression leads torejection or rejection leads to aggression, several laboratory playgroup studies demonstratethat the early aggression leads to later rejection among new, unfamiliar peers.Verbal and physical aggression is said to be characteristic of the rejected boys. Boys whowere observed to make hostile comments and hit other boys most often in initial session werelikely to be rejected by their new peers. Three qualifying points need to be made about therelation between childhood aggression and rejection by peers. Firstly, not all aggressive actsare viewed with disapproval by peers. Aggression in response to direct provocation actually isevaluated positively by peers. Second, not all aggressive children are socially rejected bypeers. Leadership and other social skills may enable some aggressive children to avoid beingrejected. Boys rated by peers as both aggressive and rejected were most argumentative, mostdisruptive, less socially attentive than boys who were aggressive but not rejected.Finally, the cultural context of aggressive behavior moderate the relation between therejection and aggression.(Eisenberg, 2006)How to deal with aggression and drives to domination?How does one treat a problem child who is hostile, ‘out of control’, aggressive? Rather thanfocusing on the problem child, the psychologist David Shaffer suggests working with theentire family. The next step in to describe the nature of the problem to parents and to teachthen a new approach to managing their children’s behavior. Shaffer stresses the followingmethods and procedures which are about to help to overcome the problem: • do not give in to the child’s coercive behaviors • do not escalate your own coercion when the child becomes coercive, • control the child’s coercion with the time-out procedure- a method of discipline in which the child is send to her room until she calms down and stops using coercive tactics, 8
  • • identify those child’s behaviors that are the most irritating, and then establish a point system in which the child can earn credits for acceptable conduct or lose them for unacceptable behaviors,A majority of families respond positively to these methods, not only the problem childrenbecomes less coercive, defiant and aggressive but the mother’s depression fades as shegradually begins to feel better about herself, her child, and her ability to resolve family crises.(Shaffer, 2005). Critiques of Foucault’s theory Both Freud and psychoanalysis have been criticized in very extreme terms. Amongaspects which were the most seriously criticized I can enumerate the penis envy, castrationand the women’s ability to sublimate, which results in her stunted superego. Personally, I amstrongly against the view that women have been always presented as a constantly subjected toa male model of psychic development. What strikes me the most is the injustice in assessingmale versus female potential. We have never been in any sense worse than men. Of course wediffer in many areas of life. As an example I can juxtapose the ethic of justice with the ethicof caring. The first one is commonly associated with male features. It is generally believedthat men are better in logical thinking, they usually simplify everything, for them there is onlyblack or white, good or evil and nothing in between. There are seen to be better specialists inscientific issues, they have ability to look from tridimensional perspective and map readingwhereas women are perceived as being overemotional, oversensitive. The best for them wouldbe to stay at home, take care of children, clean and cook dinners everyday. But I cannot agreewith these generalizations. The idea of essentialism seems to be crucial here. This term istaken on the one hand as biological or psychical determinism and on the other as denying thepossibility of historical changes occurring in the structures of subjectivity. In opposition tophenomenalism, the real features of women are inside us, these attributes are not visible at thefirs sight.The whole system of criticism was inaugurated by Simone de Beauvoir. On the one hand sheopposes the role of necessary ‘other’ that women have to play in psychic, mental, social andeven cultural life, on the other hand she points out the genderized structure of the dialecticalopposition between man as the representative of culture and women as a repository of nature.What is more, Beauvoir opposes the biologically deterministic view of women. She 9
  • withstands to its emphasis on desire a political theory based on the will to change where thekey role plays the idea of socio-cultural influences.Jurgen Habermas claims that Foucault’s conception of power assigns environmental damagefor which he can be held philosophically accountable. Foucault writes that power is in factproductive for both knowledge and practice, while Habermas insist that it be tempered by acritical theory able to make a normative distinction between legitimate and illegitimate uses ofpower. (Kelly, 1994)Nancy Chodorow argued for positive value as a female experience the belief that motherhoodrepresents a symbol of women’s limitation to their biological function. According to her,Freud assumption that women’s function to have babies is included in the view thatfemininity has to do only with sexual orientation, the mode and the wish to be masculine.Subsequently she criticizes that although the “sexuality in psychoanalytic view has manyaspects, much meaning, involves many important conscious and unconscious transformationsand enormous complexities, mothering is either ignored or dismissed in an aside about girl’sidentification with her mother.” (Chodorow 1978, p. 147-148). Among theoretical critics Jacques Derrida seems to be worth mentioning as heembodied some aspects of psychoanalytic theory into deconstruction in order to challenge themetaphysical ‘self-presence’. What is more, he often talks openly about the contradictions inFreud’s theory. These contradictions are the conditions upon which Freud’s work can operate.For instance, although Freud defines religion and metaphysics as displacements of theidentification with the father in the resolution of the Oedipal complex, Derrida urges in thatthe validity of the father in Freuds own analysis is itself owned to the eminency given to thefather in Western metaphysics and theology since Plato. (Derrida, 1980). The aim ofDerrida’s critique was turned to reveal an undecidability at the heart of his project.Nancy Hadstock1 claims that Foucault makes it very difficult to locate domination, includingdomination in gender relations, because he resists power from the perspective of a white malecitizen who sees all power relations as largely equivalent and stresses resistance but not socialtransformation. What is more, Foucault claims that domination is not a part of this image, it israther that the image of a network in which we all participate carries implications of equalityand agency rather than the systematic domination of the many. The aim is to look at actingpower from the new perspective- not to deny its general design but rather to see it as moreinsidious and complex- Hartsock’s critique seems to be a rejection of Foucault’s ideas based1 Nancy Hartsock a feminist philosopher, born in 1943. She is known for her She is known for her work infeminist epistemology and standpoint theory, especially the essay "The Feminist Standpoint". 10
  • in part on an oversimplification. Additionally, Foucault frequently uses the language thatargues that power is ‘omnipresent’ whereas Hartsock claims that if power is everywhere at alltimes it is functionally equivalent to saying that power is nowhere. Power just is. Andanything that has been done to counter power within the system of omnipresent powerrelations and may indeed lead to further oppressions. In brief, I argued the following: The relation of the psychoanalytic theory to the powerand domination. It can be concluded that the core/reason of human aggression and drives todomination lies in our earliest experiences, our earliest developmental processes. The act ofseparation from the mother is crucial here, and generally the equal parent’s contribution inchildren bringing up. Presence of both mother and father is necessary in child correct mental,psychological, sexual, cultural, gender and physical development. It influences the child’sadjustment to the surrounding world, the child’s ability to make reliable, happy relationshipsbased on cooperation, dialog and support. If child experiences lack of love, protection,security, parental care, attention he/she starts to look it outside the family circle. And if it wasnot possible to find it within the family it is even harder to experience it outside.Consequently it can lead to the situation when a child wants to recompensate his difficultchildhood, he wants to be noticed and the most common way to be notice is through violenceand strength demonstration. A child or adult then is aggressive, thinks that the only way tocombat problems is by using physical strength, he wants to dominate. The Oedipus andElectra complexes are meaningful here- it is important how the whole family will go throughall of the stages of personal development. If the child’s negative feelings toward different sexparent will be overcome or maybe developed.Although there are many methods which are suppose to deal with such problems it is not aneast tasks. It is a long run process. As we can see parenting is one of the most important andmeaningful part of our life. This decision should be really well-though otherwise we canunintentionally destroys someone’s life. In order to bring up a child the best possible way alot of factors need to be fulfilled, I mean here appropriate care, love, feeling of unity withinthe family, compromising problems solving, cooperation on every possible level- work, homeduties, paying bills, investments etc. It is hard to believe but even an infant has an ability toobserve, collect data and absorb knowledge, he can feel that parents are fighting, thatsomething is wrong. We all need to keep it in mind for all the time. 11
  • BIBLIOGRAPHY:Chiesa, Lorenzo, 2007: Subjectivity and Otherness, A Philosophical Reading of Lacan,Cambridge, Mit Press.Chodorow, Nancy, 1990: Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory, New Haven: Yale UniversityPress.Chodorow, Nancy, 1978: The Reproduction of Mothering, Psychoanalysis and Sociology ofGender, University of California Press, Berkley, Los Angeles, London.Derrida, Jacques, 1980: The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, Flammarion(Original French), University of Chicago Press (English Translation)Eisenberg, Nancy, 2006: The handbook of child psychology, Volume three: Social,Emotional, and Personality Development, John Wiley & Sons. Inc., New Yersey.Fairbairn, W., Ronald D., 1954: An object-relations theory of the personality. New York:Basic Books.Fisher S., Greenberg R. P. 1977: The Scientific Credibility of Freuds Theories and Therapy,New York: Basic Books Kline.Keller, Evelyn, 1996: Feminism and Science, Edited by Evelyn Fox Keller and Helen E.Longino, Oxford Readings in Feminism.Kelly, Michael, 1994: Critique and Power, Recasting the Foucault/ Habermas Debate,Massachusetts Institute of technology.Klein, Melanie, 1984: The psycho-analysis of children, New York: Free Press.Medewar, Peter, 1975: Victims of Psychiatry, The New York Review of Books. Cited in DavidE. Stannard, Shrinking History: On Freud and the Failure of Psychohistory (1980), p.150.Ramazanoglu, Croline; Holland, Janet 1993: The Mens Bibliography: A comprehensivebibliography of writing on men, masculinities, gender, and sexualities, Compiled by MichaelFlood, Australia.Shaffer, David, 2005: Social and Personality Development, Wadsworth, Cengage Learning,Belmont, USA.Smart, Barry, 2002: Michael Foucault, London and New York.Sullivan, Harry, 1953: Interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York: W. W. Norton.Wright, Elizabeth, 1992: Feminism and Psychoanalysis, A Critical Dictionary, BlackwellReference.Freud, Sigmund, 1923: The Ego and the ID, The Standard Edition of the CompletePsychological Works of Sigmund Freud. 12
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